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Study: Autistic Children Have Good Language Skills

Contrary to standard definitions of autism in play a decade ago, children on the autism spectrum do not have problems with learning language. What they have trouble with is using their language skills in communicating effectively, a new study confirms.

Contrary to standards definitions of autism in play a decade ago, children on the autism spectrum do not have problems with learning language.

What they have trouble with is using their language skills in communicating effectively.

That was the conclusion of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) when it revised its

(the

) in 2013. Instead of language impairment being listed as a symptom, the new criterion is “social communication impairment.”

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-V

Now a UK study published in the

has confirmed that the APA did the right thing in revision its criteria for confirming a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics

In a report on the study on the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative website, Catherine Lord, director of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at New York-Presbyterian Hospital said people with autism have good structural language but may lack conversational skills.

The researchers, led by Angelica Ronald of the University of London, found that in twins—both identical and fraternal—there was no connection between having autistic traits and lacking language skills.

The researchers had parents of the children fill out questionnaires about their child's autism traits. The children's language skills were tested with 4 web-based tests of language abilities. By looking at twins they found no evidence that inheriting autism traits meant also having problems with language.

That finding was true even for children with high number of autism traits. “We expected high levels of autistic traits to correlate with low levels of language abilities, because language has been considered such a core part of the autism phenotype for so long,” Ronald said in the report, “But the correlations we found are really quite modest.”